Blending into the Jungle - Planchonella House by Jesse Bennett Studio
Cairns, QLD, Australia
A jungle home must coexist with the jungle; it must breathe with the jungle and blend into the jungle.
Taking only what it needs from the jungle and giving back all it can in return. To design a jungle home, the patterns of the jungle must be closely observed to ensure they are not disrupted by the added presence. Amongst the Planchonella trees of Edge Hill, Cairns, in Far North Queensland bordering Mount Whitfield Conservation Park is the site for Jesse Bennett Studio’s one-of-a-kind jungle home.
Passive and climatic design strategies are at the core of what define Jesse Bennett Studio’s approach to architecture; and it is with these principles in mind that architect Jesse Bennett and interior designer Anne-Marie Campagnolo designed and built Planchonella House together. The husband and wife team are described by the Jury of the Australian Institute of Architects Robyn Boyd Award in 2015 as “an architect/builder/inventor and an interior innovator at their combined best.” The couple proceeded to win the National Award for Residential Architecture for Planchonella House that same year. During the two-year construction period, both Bennett and Campagnolo took very active roles in the building of their dream home – from clearing the site by hand and digging service trenches, to building the home and a lot of the furniture, even camping on site during the build. It was the most immersive way to learn about this environment and design something truly harmonious to its place. Taking great time in research and examination to understand the patterns of this dense rainforest area was essential in developing a successful design. Jesse states, “we looked at the immediate site and its surrounding environment with utmost regard for the unabated, punishing tropical climate.”
These observations led to many insights that helped to guide the design features of Planchonella House. For example, the use of an external courtyard between the house and the rainforest provides light and ventilation to ensure the house does not become damp in such a tropical climate. The large overhead mass, fitted with rooftop garden, is inspired by the rainforest tree canopy to provide coolth to the living spaces below. The organic L-shape of the concrete floor and roof slabs nestled into the hillside were derived from the natural contours of the site’s topography. Interior walls of the façade are formed by operable glass windows which creates a visual connection to the outside greenery and allows for natural airflow throughout the interior. These strategies are not the result of technology, gadgets or excessive budget, but simply come from a thoughtful awareness and respect for the existing systems of nature.
To design a jungle home, the patterns of the jungle must be closely observed to ensure they are not disrupted by the added presence.
Upon stepping indoors, sculptural walls provide a sense of shelter and security whilst large expanses of windows maintain the tranquil ambience of the outdoors. Each element of the interior is a playful surprise that has been carefully selected to evoke joy at every turn. Much of the furniture has been designed and hand crafted by Jesse and Anne-Marie themselves, including their favourite piece, the curved pink sofa. Such uniqueness implies that the furnishings have a presence and character beyond more than just a form and function.
The large overhead mass, fitted with rooftop garden, is inspired by the rainforest tree canopy to provide coolth to the living spaces below.
Colourful and patterned finishes with a mid-century flare mellow their Brutalist concrete backdrop. The contrast between the soft and the hard defines the strength of the home from the comforts within. Stretching from the spaciously open living areas are moments of intimate privacy. The master suite, bedrooms, bathrooms and studio space are enveloped by the lush rainforest surrounding.
Amongst the Planchonella trees of Edge Hill, Cairns, in Far North Queensland bordering Mount Whitfield Conservation Park is the site for Jesse Bennett Studio’s one-of-a-kind jungle home.
Photographs alone cannot convey the whole experience of Planchonella House. The sounds of the birds, the smell of the air. It is more than a house on a block of land, it is a participating member of an ecosystem that will continue to thrive and improve as it grows into the jungle.
The master suite, bedrooms, bathrooms and studio space are enveloped by the lush rainforest surrounding.
For Jesse and Anne-Marie, Planchonella House has been an experiment and a lesson, but most of all a home. It has launched their careers in ways they could not have expected and displays their skills unattached from any trends or formulas.“ I think our nomadic way of living and running our studio, combined with our creative endeavours in other fields helps us to look at things from a unique point of view,” Anne-Marie states in reflection to their recent successes. In 2019, Jesse Bennett Studio will be opening a studio in Melbourne, though will maintain their free-spirited approach to life and work of creating vibrant projects all over the world.